Postmodern Conservative

Questions about Pro-Life Libertarians and U2 Love Lyrics

1) Was Ben Domenech right, when he recently implied that increasing numbers of younger libertarians are pro-life?  That would make sense logically, for even if you buy into the idea that the Griswold-Eisenstadt-Roe-Casey-defined right of privacy is protected by the word “liberty” in the 14th just as the liberal justices say, or is a somewhat newly-grasped natural right that ought to be explicitly announced and protected by a new amendment, you would have reason to think there can be no “balancing” of that right with the right to life.  If you take the Declaration’s right to life truly seriously, whether on older natural law and/or Biblical grounds, or even (I think) on the purely “politicalized psychology” natural rights grounding of Locke, Jefferson, etc., you regard it as inalienable, and in the face of contemporary science and timeless logic, all the hemming and hawing about “not knowing” whether the post-conception “thing” is a human person cannot keep you from applying that right to the prenatal human in all stages from conception on.  Another way to put it is this:  any libertarian who is going to be categorical about the inalienability of liberty and property rights has got to also be so about the right to life. 

Domenech described this as “heartland libertarianism,” and as being on the rise, especially among the young:

…unlike most Libertarian Party candidates, every libertarian-leaning Republican elected over the past several years—including Mike Lee in Utah, Justin Amash in Michigan and Thomas Massie in Kentucky—is strongly pro-life. Their brand of heartland libertarianism is not at odds with limited government conservatism or Christian belief; instead itaccepts the Lockean view of natural rights at the basis of the American founding. Ron Paul himself made this view explicit in a 2012 ad campaign, arguing that “unless… we understand that we must protect life, we can’t protect liberty.” This is a view of natural rights and the Declaration of Independence that eliminates a litmus-test issue that would bar many Christian conservatives from voting for a candidate like Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, the pro-choice former governor of New Mexico. It is an approach that expands the appeal of libertarianism, attracting supporters who in prior generations might have been lock-step Republicans and traditional churchgoing social conservatives, but have instead reconsidered whether compassionate conservatism and nation building was a good idea after all.

Domenech didn’t say it, but it would be perfectly consistent for this kind of libertarianism, which is perhaps better described as “natural rights libertarianism” to be pro-gay-marriage.  As a brand of libertarianism, it wouldn’t need to meet the litmus test I think anything still called a form of “conservatism” must meet, which is to only be pro-gay-marriage insofar as it is won via democratic votes. (BTW: I’m against gay-marriage, but I only get into a sky-is-falling-mode about it when it is legalized via judicial decisions.)

Are these sorts of libertarians, who are pro-life and pro-religious-liberty, but who otherwise find social-conservatism distasteful, increasing in number?  What do you think?  I am open to learning about the best polls on this, or simply hearing everyone’s anecdotal impressions. 

2) Was this New Yorker writer Joshua Rothman correct that in many instances, when U2 lyrics seem to be about love for a woman or about difficulties caused by such, they are actually, or at least at their deepest level, about the Christian’s difficult calling to love God

I was a big fan of the band when younger (see the Songbook post on “New Year’s Day”), and still enjoy hearing them, and even on occasion thinking about their overall significance, and especially the Christian side of that.  Still, I’m not interested enough to have taken the trouble yet to download their new album.  I understand the reasons certain writers have given for their needing to make the big “ironic shift” they did with Achtung, Baby  back in 1992, but felt some of the moves that accompanied that too accommodating–musically and theatrically–to 90s-era decadence, and I generally think the effectiveness of pop-art/ironic strategies in rock to be quite overrated.  So, I guess I like best the simpler U2 of the first four albums, which just happens to be the U2 of my own youth, despite the painfully ridiculous earnestness (“Like a Song,” anyone?) of some of that material.

In any case, if Rothman is right, a lot of those later lyrics about disappointment in love become a bit more interesting, perhaps.  (My “perhaps” has to do with feeling that some “Christian hipster” artists have a tendency to play up the soulfulness of doubt-struggles more than they should.)  Maybe I’ll even buy or download some of those albums.  But count me as unconvinced so far—for a few songs, maybe, but pretty much across the board?  Can any of our readers add to Rothman’s case? Or have I read him incorrectly?

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The questions are unrelated, beyond my feeling curious and ignorant about both.

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